Manga: Kotoura-san

The ESP Society. From left: Hiyori Moritani, Yoshihisa Manabe, Haruka Kotoura, Yuriko Mifune and Daichi Muroto (bottom-right corner).
Kotoura-san is a web-published yonkoma manga by Enokids which has been adapted into an anime by AIC in the winter 2013 season. Enokids ended the series in 2015 in favour of the new series Magical Girl Paracel.

The story follows Haruka Kotoura, a fifteen-year old telepath who can't turn her ability off. As a child, she naively blurts out sensitive information and personal thought. This causes her to be unjustly labelled a compulsive liar; her friends and classmates reject and bully her; and her parents divorce because they cannot understand her special ability or how to deal with its repercussions. After years of persecution and ostracizing, she transfers to a new high school, where she meets Yoshihisa Manabe, a good-hearted boy who is transparent and honest and not scared of her ability.

Viewers in USA, Canada, South America, United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden can watch it legally on Crunchyroll, or Netflix in some locations.

Currently getting a sub-only DVD release by NIS America under the title of The Troubled Life of Miss Kotoura (available August 2015),

Kotoura-san contains examples of:

  • I Can't Believe It's Not Heroin: Hiyori's cooking is so bad that, when she and Yoshihisa eat some in episode 7, they both act like they're drunk and/or on some sort of hallucinogen.
    • In the yonkoma they did actually get drunk, but since they can't show minors drinking on TV in Japan, it was changed to this.
  • I Have No Daughter: Haruka's parents disown her, after she reveals that they are both having affairs. It's implied that Zenzou then disowned Haruka's mother, e.i. his daughter, because she disowned Haruka. It turns out that her mom Kumiko regrets the decision.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Haruka does this with Detective Tsukino in episode 11 when they find out she's the attacker from earlier episodes.
  • I'm Taking Her Home with Me!: Played with in episode 2 when Haruka first meets Yuriko. The latter is ecstatic to meet the former, and attempts to carry her to the ESP club room.
  • In the Blood: That's the reason why Yuriko was bullied when she was younger—a compulsive liar's daughter will also be a compulsive liar.
  • Ironic Echo: During the anime's Downer Beginning, Kumiko harshly (and dramatically) pushes Haruka to the floor after the latter begs her not to leave. During the final episode, the brief scuffle between the two ends with Haruka pushing Kumiko down in the exact same fashion.
  • It's All My Fault: Generally, there is at least one person who thinks/says "It's my fault!", per episode. Usually Haruka (who has a Guilt Complex) or Hiyori.
    • She didn't speak it out, but this is how Haruka thinks about the events in the latter half of episode 3, when Hiyori sent dojo members/cult thugs to attack Yoshihisa, causing Yoshihisa to be hospitalized and Hiyori having a My God, What Have I Done? moment. She regressed back to her thinking before (see Jerkass Fašade) and decided to leave for good. Of course, being a Twelve-Episode Anime, it doesn't last long.
  • Jerkass:
    • Haruka's parents abandon her because they just can't deal with the strain of raising her. It turns out by Episode 12, though, that Kumiko realized what she had done to her daughter and regrets her "I Have No Daughter" line.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Hiyori points out that Haruka's mind-reading powers are an incredible invasion of privacy. Does this excuse in any way, shape, or form, the way she and others treat her for most of the story? Not really... but it's still a valid point, although it should be noted that Haruka can't turn off her mind reading or keep some of her findings secret.
  • Kids Are Cruel: In both Haruka and Yuriko's childhoods, they were picked on by kids their age. If that wasn't bad enough, the bullies made rather painful remarks (Haruka's mind-reading was the reason why her parents divorced and left her and Yuriko's mother "fake" psychic abilities were why she was Driven to Suicide).
  • Last Name Basis: Everybody towards everybody, even including Yoshihisa and Haruka who are supposed to be stable lovers.
  • Lighter and Softer: The anime seems to be toning down certain parts of the original yonkoma.
    • Episode 3 has Yoshihisa beaten up significantly in the anime. In the yonkoma, he got stabbed, and was not conscious when Haruka came to check on him. Also, Hiyori convinces the thugs to go after Yoshihisa by telling him that he's stalking her. In the yonkoma, she tells them he raped her.
    • In the anime, one story arc has a criminal prowling the streets savagely beating up schoolgirls, resulting in them getting hospitalized. In the yonkoma, the criminal actually rapes and murders them.
  • Like Mother, Like Daughter: The Boyfriends of Haruka and Kumiko Kotoura tend often not to think with their brains, but to let a certain organ ca 80 cm below to take command.
  • Love Confession:
    • Unusually early in anime. Episode 2. Yoshihisa declared his love towards Haruka when he confronted Hiyori. Haruka fell into tears as she overheard this.
      • An official one occurs in the end. In episode 12 Haruka finally confesses to Yoshihisa, who in turn confesses to her out loud, as he did not realize that he didn't do so 'till then.
      • In the manga this happened much, much earlier, as early as chapter three. Namely, it happenes after Yoshihisa's first confrontation with Hiyori. Yoshihisa escorts Haruka home, and confesses to her out loud, and she does the same in turn.
    • Hiyori gives one to Yoshihisa in episode 11, long after he's established a relationship with Haruka. Although she plays it off while he's around, she breaks down in tears after he leaves.
  • The Maiden Name Debate: Zenzou is Haruka's maternal grandfather. This implies her nameless father married into the Kotouras, likely a rural landed gentry household.
  • Mama Bear: When she's first introduced to Manabe and the others, Kumiko punches Manabe in the gut for trying to kiss her daughter. She quickly reverts to her Jerkass Fašade after realizing what happened.
  • Meanwhile Scene: In episode 7, Haruka haven't been able to contact Yoshihisa and asked Yuriko and Dai'chi for assistance. Yuriko thought he maybe doing This and That with Hiyori, but Dai'chi disagreed, saying she's still still struggling her summer assignments. The scene then cut to the Moritani dojo and we see Hiyori desk was moved to the middle of the hall, being surrounded by trainers.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Yoshihisa sees this between Haruka and Yuriko in episode 2, nd again in episode 12.
  • Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: One Big Lie as far as narrative goes. In-Universe, it's Speculative Science. The setting doesn't recognize Psychic Powers as fact even though they truly exist, albeit extremely rarely. Ironically, espers are treated like liars and fakes. Yuriko's goal is to go lower on this scale via finding scientific proof of these powers.
  • Mood Whiplash: An omnipresent trope for the series, considering it being a constant Cerebus Roller Coaster ride. For example:
    • Haruka's seeing Yoshihisa's goofy daydream that's enough to break the Deliberately Monochrome in the Downer Beginning.
    • In the stinger of episode 8, Haruka was clearly really happy on her Not a Date with Yoshihisa and would want to "feel like this forever." The next second she saw a vision of a murder scene and fell into Heroic BSOD / Fainting Seer.
    • Averted with the ending theme, though: there are a couple of different ending songs, seemingly chosen for each episode to fit the tone of the final scene. Contrast it with the opening, which is a very cheerful song that would make unaware viewers assume its a straight comedy show.
  • Mouthful of Pi: Yoshihisa does this as a Psychic Static to prevent Haruka from finding out what he may or may not be up to in episode 7.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Episode 7 has a truly heartwarming example, both In-Universe and likely out: Haruka's Surprise Party. Justified for two reasons: One, it was not easy to keep this a secret from a telepath, and the gravitas of the success made everything Worth It from Yoshihisa's perspective; and two, this is likely Haruka's first birthday in years that was actually worth celebrating. It's understandable that she would take the time to enjoy the surrealism of the moment.
  • My Greatest Failure:
    • This is how Yoshihisa thought at the end of Episode 3, after Haruka vanished because she thought it's all her fault that he was attacked.
    • And more importantly, Haruka causing her own mother to hate and abandon her pretty much defines who she is today.
    • The Head Priest feels that his inability to help Haruka after her mother abandoned her was his greatest failure, and vows to bring them back together someday. Unfortunately, as evidenced by her comments in episode 7, her mother still wants nothing to do with her.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Hiyori suffers this after she arranges for thugs to beat up Yoshihisa for choosing Haruka over her. The encounter doesn't go as planned, ending up with Yoshihisa getting injured - stabbed in the manga and sorely beaten in the anime - and sent to the hospital. She then suffers Heel Realization about how much of a Jerk Ass she's been.
    • Haruka believes she's the cause of all the strife between Yoshihisa and Hiyori, which ended up getting Yoshihisa hurt in the process because of the latter's jealousy.
    • Yuriko suffers from this after Daichi takes a blow and ends up in the hospital.
    • Not outright stated but this is the main thought Kumiko had after disowning Haruka.
  • Naked Apron: Yoshihisa's fantasy when Haruka was cooking in episode 5. Obviously, no one is amused by this.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Yuriko's mother Chizuru Mifune was named after a Real Life clairvoyant, Chizuko Mifune, per Word of God.
  • No Sympathy: It's almost comical how fast nearly everybody at the new school writes off Haruka as a monster after they find out she has telepathy. Other then the ESP club, people don't even show any curiosity about her powers!
  • Not a Date: In episode 8 of the anime, Yuriko forces Yoshihisa to have a date with Haruka as a punishment for his perverted thoughts towards Haruka earlier that episode. Haruka insisted that's not a date, just Yoshihisa's "assigned punishment." The people on the streets disagrees. It's even the title of that episode.
  • Official Couple: Haruka and Yoshihisa; declared as early as chapter/episode 2.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Yoshihisa getting ambushed by four thugs. However, he manages to seriously beat all of them up by himself, forcing them to resort to stabbing him.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: In episode 9, Daichi stops puffing up his lips strangely in order to discuss a series of serial muggings Kotora might have psychically picked up on.
  • Orbital Shot: This is used during the Downer Beginning when Haruka's elementary classmates chant "Monster! Monster! Monster!" towards her after they figured out she has Telepathy. It is done very effectively since that moment forever and clearly establishes her Trigger as well as gives the viewers the sense of loneliness and betrayal even though she was being Innocently Insensitive.
  • Parental Abandonment: Haruka and Yuriko.
  • Parental Neglect: Haruka's father. Let's say, his daughter is having serious social issues at school, and his wife was frantically trying to find a cause, to no avail. His response? Relegated it as "woman's work" and started rarely coming home.
  • Playing the Heart Strings: The prologue theme is 10 and a half minutes' worth of this. After a while, it suddenly turns into a Song of Solace and then into a Grief Song when the old woman sends the cat that Haruka had befriended to an animal shelter. Certain sections of the song even become a Recurring Riff to maintain this effect.
  • Please Don't Leave Me:
    • Haruka begs this of her mother in the first episode, but she ends up leaving anyway. It became her mother's biggest regret, but by then the damage was done.
    • Yuriko tells this to Daichi in episode 11.
  • Poke in the Third Eye:
    • Exploited with much glee by Hiyori in Episode 2, to the point that Haruka vomits.
    • Daichi does this as well, with...better intentions, in Episode 3. He feeds Haruka images of her strapped to a table and him ready to dissect her, thinking that neither Yoshihisa nor Yuriko will be coming...30 seconds before they arrive with lunch and Haruka realizes he was teasing her.
    • Yoshihisa also regularly does a much milder form of this to Haruka. He readily admits that he'll sometimes fantasize about her (including imagining a bust upgrade) just to get a reaction out of her - it's just a form of playful teasing to him. He even internally notes that fantasizing about her isn't as fun if she can't react, such as when she briefly lost her telepathy due to a cold.
  • Protectorate: The ESP Research Society:
    Yuriko "The objective of the ESP Research Society is to scientifically prove the existence of psychic abilities so that the general populace will acknowledge them. Also, to protect those with psychic abilities from people's prejudiced views."
  • Psychic Static: Yoshihisa used multiplication tables and Mouthful of Pi to hide whatever he was planning in episode 7.
  • The Reveal: In "Stand By Me", Tsukino is revealed to be the attacker.
  • Reverse Cerebus Syndrome: The Downer Beginning is a buildup for a Romantic Comedy, albeit a bit Darker and Edgier than the average.
  • Rock-Paper-Scissors: Played for Drama in the Downer Beginning. This is the first scenario when she innocently showed off her telepathy, to her detriment.
  • Sand In My Eyes: In chapter 1 of the manga, Haruka cried after Yoshihisa mentioned "people who want to leave are going to leave." When Yoshihisa asked, she denied crying and claimed of Onion Tears. Yoshihisa of course lampshaded about how fake it is. The eyecatch that follows have Haruka mentioned she actually keeps onions at home to make up excuses like this!
  • Self-Fanservice: In-Universe, Yoshihisa's fantasies about Haruka always have her being much curvier than she actually is.
  • School Festival:
    • The "ESP Fortune Telling" in episode 2 was held during a Cultural Festival in the manga.
    • A sports festival is held in the second half of episode 5.
  • Shipper on Deck: Haruka and Yoshihisa was so much of an Official Couple that everyone ships them.
    • The boys in Haruka and Yoshihisa's class put their names under an Umbrella of Togetherness in episode 3. Yoshihisa at first seems offended by it, but rather than take offense that they shipped them together, he complains that they forgot to add hearts to it.
    • Zenzou is all for the couple, too. He even berates Yoshihisa for missing the perfect moments for a Relationship Upgrade.
    • Hiyori is also actively shipping Yoshihisa and Haruka, despite having a crush on Yoshihisa at the same time. Even she finds that to be strange.
    • Dai'chi's mother ships Yuriko and Dai'chi, even when they're quite young.invoked
    • Yuriko consistently gives advice to Kotoura on how she can get "that idiot" Manabe to take the next step.
  • Shout-Out: A possible one to Dark Souls. (! Trigger Warning !) The entrance to the ESP Club bears a striking resemblance to the room where the first Capra Demon is encountered.
  • Shower of Angst: Yuriko had one in episode 2, after the Flashback Nightmare about her Dark and Troubled Past.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Yoshihisa's confrontation with Hiyori in the second episode. For all the bluster she's ready to give, Yoshihisa cuts through it all in just three lines, ending with a Love Confession in front of nearly the entire class (with Haruka overhearing the entire thing just outside of the classroom).
  • Single Women Seek Good Men: Kotoura and Yuriko fall for Manabe and Dai'chi respectively.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The show starts off very cynically, then gets Zig Zagged due to an ever present Cerebus Rollercoaster since it's more of a Romantic Dramedy. In spite of all this, the show ends on a well-deserved Happily Ever After.
  • Social Services Does Not Exist: Unfortunately for both Haruka and Yuriko. Haruka's parents could rival Hayate's in jerkassery. To be fair however, Haruka's mother did attempt to see several doctors to discover what was wrong, but none of them could offer any help. Moreover, she also recognized the evil in disowning her own daughter. For all her faults, she does try to get better and that is a huge step above Hayate's parents. Yuriko's case is even more inexcusable since she witnessed her mother Driven to Suicide during her own Dark and Troubled Past. Seriously! It's as if this isn't enough of a Crapsaccharine World to begin with!
  • Solemn Ending Theme: The first four episodes uses The Flower of Hope (Kibou no Hana) as the ending theme. While it is not completely sad, it is a more-or-less accurate portrayal of Yoshihisa's effect on Haruka—it starts with How do I stand again/ once I've fallen down?, with a refrain starting with that day you taught me the meaning of life, and gave me the strength to live on.
  • Special Edition Title: Episode 5 with Theme of the ESP Society and Episode 6 with Flat as a Board, for the two episodes being a bit of a breather compared to the others. The other episodes use the solemn yet heartwarming Flower of Hope.
  • Spit Take: Haruka does this in the first episode when Yoshihisa sticks some chopsticks on his face in a really funny way. She does it again in episode 5 after Yoshihisa gives an embarrassing picture of a young Hiyori in a photo promoting their dojo.
  • Spoiler Opening: Those who have watched episode 2 and/or 3 would find the opening and ending spoiling. As you can see in the page image (clipped from the ending), Hiyori would eventually be a member of the ESP Club. This implies her issue with Haruka and Yoshihisa will resolve at some point.
  • Split Personality: Detective Tsukino has one, due to being bullied as a child. Her evil personality was in charge or revenge and was also the perp of the physical assaults on school girls in episode 10. With the help of Haruka, the good side is able to eliminate the evil one and she is even ready to turn herself in to pay for "her" crimes, which is refused by her superior, whom she has an apparently close friendship with.
  • The Stinger:
    • Episode 6, "Summer Vacation!", features an after-credits scene in which Kumiko coldly watches her daughter and her friends from afar (with the priest by her side).
    • Episode 8, "It's Not a Date", ends with Haruka passing out after getting a nightmarish vision of someone being attacked.
    • Episode 9 ("Everyone is Around Me") ends with a traumatized Hiyori kneeling over a girl's body in a dark alley, her hands coated with blood.
  • Stress Vomit: In episode 2, this is the direct result of Hiyori's Poke in the Third Eye Mind Rape on Haruka, by using emphasizing the trigger of a girl who endured a decade of emotional trauma.
  • Super-Deformed: The main cast in the ending of episode 5.
  • Superhero Prevalence Stages: Very Early Stage and often in cruel ways as Haruka's Downer Beginning shows. Yuriko is purposely aiming for the Middle Stage.
  • Super Senses: Also Deconstructed. Yuriko's mother had telescopic vision and used that in a high-profile way, then people said she's a fake, and she was Driven to Suicide.
  • Surprise Party: In the second half of episode 7, Yoshihisa doesn't hang out with Haruka at all, nor does he talk to her very much. She and Yuriko go around town looking for him, and they suspect he's cheating on her, or at least up to no good. Then it turns out he was working because he wanted to get money to give a birthday party to Haruka, since her birthday is September 1st.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: In episode 10, Haruka claims she wasn't thinking about Yoshihisa, shortly after they had a fight regarding her trying to find the criminal attacking high school girls.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: In episode 2, Yoshihisa chews Hiyori after he found out that she psychically exploited Haruka during the Fortune Teller scene and teased her about the Stress Vomit. It's made better by Yoshihisa's Tranquil Fury, his Love Confession for Haruka, and the fact that both Haruka and Yuriko were eavesdropping on this conversation. The former sheds Tender Tears afterwards as the latter holds her tenderly.
  • Television Geography: Just compare Kotoura Station(in anime) with Urayasu Station(in real life) of Kotoura Tōhaku District. They look practically alike there.
  • Theme Tune Cameo:
    • In episode 3, when the ESP Club members were singing karaoke, Yuriko picked the anime's opening theme for Haruka to sing.
    • In episode 12 they do it again, and this time Haruka sings the (main) ending theme.
  • There Are No Therapists: At least not for any esper or anybody closely related to one. Kumiko and Yuriko fit the latter.
  • They're Called Personal Issues For A Reason: The whole reason why Tatemae exists in the setting. Deconstructed during the Downer Beginning due to Haruka's presence as an Innocently Insensitive Living Lie Detector and a Curious Honest Advisor which causes everyone to play on their facades.
  • Through His Stomach: Dramatically subverted in Episode 3. Yuriko suggested Haruka to do that to Yoshihisa, and Haruka did made one... on the day after Yoshihisa was attacked. Also see It's All My Fault for its symbolism.
  • Training Montage: Haruka goes through one in episode 5.
  • Trash of the Titans: Subverted. Yuriko assumed this of Haruka's apartment in episode 5 since she's living alone, but that's not the case.
  • True Companions: The ESP Club for Haruka. It's one of the show's Central Themes.
  • Tsundere: Haruka to Yoshihisa. It runs in the family. Her mother is worse, towards Haruka.
  • Unnamed Parent: So far, the only named parents are Haruka's mother Kumiko, her grandfather Zenzou (who took a parental role), and Yuriko's late mother Chizuru. Other parents are not named, even they may have a speaking role.
  • Understatement: The first preview video, having Haruka interiewing herself, gravely downplays the effects of telepathy on her. She did say, "I don't really want it," and quoted her constant Dirty Mind-Reading of Yoshihisa as an example. That is actually the least of her problems, particularly considering he's her first friend in nearly a decade. In fact, she started to sweat profusely as the "interview" went on and eventually she decided it's too tiring to go on.
  • Untrusting Community: to Haruka and Yuriko by proxy since her mother had Super Senses. See Crapsaccharine World above.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: When Haruka had a Heroic BSOD after knowing what Hiyori thinks in Episode 2, she covers her mouth as the screen turns dark to hide the horror that prompts a student to exclaim with understandably surprising disgust since the Trigger wasn't apparent to anybody else. See the trope's image for the more queasy details.
  • Wham Episode: In episode 8, where Haruka inadvertently reads the mind of a murderer.
  • Wham Line: Both caused Haruka cross the Despair Event Horizon.
    Kumiko, Haruka's mother: (Pushes Haruka off on the floor) I should never have given birth to you.
    Nameless lady, to Haruka: Are you the one who has been feeding that cat? What a nuisance. I took it to a shelter, so don't ever come here again.
  • Worth Living For: The main idea of the first ending Flower of Hope.
    That day you taught me the meaning of life,
    and gave me the strength to live on
    and I embrace it with all my heart
    • Invoked by Haruka in Ep. 11 ducking from a baton strike by Detective Tsukino that's probably meant to kill her:
      Kotuora: (internal monologue): "Until recently, I thought the world would be better off if I'd never been born. Sometimes, I even felt like I should die. *Images of her friends flash in her head* But, I don't want to die! I want to live! Manabe-kun!"
  • Yes-Man: They are everywhere since Tatemae is a dominant concept in the setting. These are the people that chase away psychics like Haruka, Yuriko's mother (who was Driven to Suicide), and Yuriko herself by extention even though the last one doesn't have any Psychic Powers. It's the fact that Yoshihisa and Dai'ichi aren't this which gives the former two some solace in an otherwise Crapsaccharine World for them.
  • You Are Not Alone: One of the main themes. Consider the situation: Yoshihisa and Dai'chi are the only teen that understands Haruka and Yuriko's psychic problems, respectively. Haruka and Hiyori shares annoyance over Yoshihisa's perversion, etc, etc.
  • Your Cheating Heart:
    • Haruka's parents were cheating behind each other. Kumiko and her boyfriend Tsuyama has been animated, but how about her father? We don't know which women is he with, but Haruka already has a half-sister.
    • In volume 2 of the manga, it turns out Kumiko's boyfriend Tsuyama has a girlfriend of Haruka's age in the equivalent of the second part of Episode 12.

Alternative Title(s):

Kotoura San